Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) plans to launch a new microtransit pilot program this year that removes the rigidity of bus stops and schedules from the transportation equation in University City.
For years, University City Partners, CATS, and other invested community stakeholders have been pressing for more efficient transportation options for University City. Soon, through the CATS app, travelers will be able to get a ride anytime of day for the same cost as a regular bus fare.
The benefit of the new system is that it will connect major employers to the light rail stations and to each other. These rides will also offer new options for commuters and carpooling, though the highest use will likely be light rail to employers.
“It’s a very flexible service, and a vast improvement from scheduled times, where if the bus is not on schedule, you just wait without knowing when to expect it,” said Tobe Holmes, UCP’s vice president of economic development.
What is microtransit?
Microtransit is a relatively new concept that’s still being tested around the country. Other cities in North Carolina, like Durham and Wilson, have already been using these types of programs.
Like Uber or Lyft, on-demand services in designated public transit areas allow people to request rides through their phones.
Services will be free during pilot period.
“The bus system is a little ineffective up here, and other places, where things are a little more spread out,” Brian Horton, a strategic planning manager with CATS, said in an email. “This last-mile concept is great for connecting places close to but not walkable to transit. It’s like a really great bus that fits your schedule and destination.”
Creating transit solutions
Creating real transit solutions has been on the radar of CATS and University City leadership for years.
The north bridge project, a roughly $38 million investment, intends to span I-85, connecting Research Drive to J.W. Clay Boulevard and providing access between University Research Park and shopping and services at University Place, the J.W. Clay LYNX station, and more. That project will accommodate drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and public transit users.
“We pushed on a public option, then a private [one],” Horton said. UCP initiated and covered expenses for a trip to Columbus, Ohio, to learn about how that city was implementing a transit grant. “It’s been part of the narrative for years.”
The microtransit program will be “catalytic” for University City, according to Horton. “It comes at a time when people are returning to the office … when they have the chance to form new habits, try new things and learn about this new, flexible transportation option.”
For more information, check out CATS’ Microtransit Fact Sheet on the program.